Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Mary Morris  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Born: 1947 in Chicago, Illinois



Illinois Connection

Morris was born in Chicago and raised on the North Shore of Lake Michigan in the suburb of Highland Park.

Biographical and Professional Information

Along with her novels, Mary Morris has also authored collections of short stories - Vanishing Animals, The Lifeguard and The Bus of Dreams, and edited books of travel stories - Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers and The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers. She moved East to go to college and currently resides in Brooklyn. She teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Waiting Room

Penguin Books. 1989

Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone
ISBN: 0395446376

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1988

Chronicling her travels throughout Central America, the author offers an unvarnished view of the precarious realitie's of everyday life in a harsh and ruthless land

Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin by Rail (Travel Library, Penguin)
ISBN: 014019939X

Penguin Books. 1992

Morris present an unforgettable account of her 1986 trip through China, Russia, and Eastern Europe. As in Nothing to Declare, her celebrated travelogue of South America, Morris combines vivid portrayals of people and historical portraits of Soviet events with a more personal journey--her search for roots, family, and her ancestral home in the Ukraine. Reading tour.

A Mother's Love
ISBN: 0385312199

Delta. 1994

This compassionate novel--published in paperback in time for Mother's Day--explores how women learn to be mothers and celebrates the resilience of all those who raise children. Abandoned by her mother at age seven, Ivy is a new single mother who must cope with financial difficulties and a demanding infant.

House Arrest
ISBN: 0312155476

Picador. 1997

Mary Morris, called "a marvelous storyteller" by The Chicago Tribune, returns with the finest novel in her acclaimed career--a vividly etched, engrossing story of a nation, two remarkable women, and the meaning of freedom.

Taut with tension, filled with the telling observations of place and local character that grow out of her expertise as a travel writer, House Arrest is Mary Morris's richest, most powerful novel to date.

The Night Sky: A Novel
ISBN: 031215609X

Picador. 1997

The Night Sky is a moving novel about the solitary moral courage of a women raising a child alone and the complex resilience of family. Ivy Slovak is a jewelry designer and artist whose days are absorbed by the struggle to make an unreliable paycheck cover the needs of her infant son. Hungry for the freedom of the world outside her window, Ivy is haunted by the memory of her mother, who abandoned her when she was seven years old. She recalls the years spent with her loving but itinerant father, wandering the desert, hoping somehow to find the troubled, beautiful woman who had left them both. With quiet eloquence and deep compassion, The Night Sky establishes Morris as one of contemporary American literature's foremost chroniclers of the secrets and strengths of the human spirit.

Angels and Aliens: A Journey West
ISBN: 031219949X

Picador. 1998

Angels & Aliens is Mary Morris's long-awaited memoir, confirming her status as a master of the genre.

In Angels & Aliens, Mary Morris once again explores her experiences as a woman on the road, this time as a single parent, wandering with her daughter through Southern California and struggling to make it on her own. Posing as a believer, Morris infiltrates New Age groups, flies as an angel through the Crystal Cathedral, and becomes a member of the earth-based unit of the Ashtar command.

As her relationship with her baby's father unravels and she is confronted with personal and financial setbacks, Morris tries to understand how other people cope with their lives, and places these systems of coping withing the broader context of American culture.

Written with humor and hope, this travel memoir is both a life-affirming story of one woman's journey through the emotional terrain of the heart, and a clear-eyed journalist's account of the true nature of California as a state of exodus, home to sun seekers, spiritual believers, and cults. Combining her gift as a story teller, which is apparent in her fiction, and the powerful sense of place she brings to her nonfiction, Morris gives us a traveler's tale for the millennium when there's no place to go but up.

Acts of God: A Novel
ISBN: 0312264216

Picador. 2001

When Tess Winterstone returns to her suburban childhood home after almost 30 years to attend a high school reunion, memories flood back, firmly shut doors open, and the betrayal by her father decades earlier comes to rest. Masterfully weaving the complexities of familial love and rosy 1950s suburban life with the dark underside of such a reality, Mary Morris movingly portrays a woman coming to terms with a warm and charming father's duplicity.

Revenge: A Novel
ISBN: 0312327935

Picador. 2005

Revenge is a compelling and psychologically complex story of female friendship, art, and life. When a young painter moves next door to a world class novelist with writer's block, the two women become entwined in a novel described by Michael Cunningham as "compelling and darkly beautiful . . . Never less than gripping, Revenge builds to the realm of the genuinely revelatory."

The River Queen: A Memoir
ISBN: 0312427891

Picador. 2008

In the fall of 2005 acclaimed writer Mary Morris set off down the Mississippi River in a battered old houseboat called The River Queen, with two river rats named Tom and Jerry and an ailing, irascible rat terrier named Samantha Jean. Her father had just died. Her daughter had gone off to college. Lost and uncertain, Morris returned to the river of her youth, to the waterside towns where her father had once lived. In this poignant and often humorous memoir, Morris reclaims the world of her childhood as she gets a bearing on her future. She describes traveling down stream through the Midwest, living like a pirate as she survives a tornado and infestation of mayflies, bivouacs on beaches, and ties up to paddleboats in the dark of night. As she learns to pilot the River Queen through these fabled waters, Morris delivers a memoir that "deserves to be both a best-seller and a classic" (The Courier-Journal).

The Jazz Palace: A Novel
ISBN: 0385539738

Nan A. Talese. 2015

Acclaimed author Mary Morris returns to her Chicago roots in this sweeping novel that brilliantly captures the dynamic atmosphere and the dazzling music of

the Jazz Age.

In the midst of boomtown Chicago, two Jewish

families have suffered terrible blows. The Lehrmans,

who run a small hat factory, lost their beloved son Harold in a blizzard. The Chimbrovas, who run a saloon,

lost three of their boys on the SS Eastland when it sank in 1915. Each family holds out hope that one of their remaining children will rise to carry on the family business. But Benny Lehrman has no interest in making hats.

His true passion is piano—especially jazz.

At night he sneaks down to the South Side, slipping into predominantly black clubs to hear jazz groups play. Along the way he meets a black trumpeter, a man named Napoleon who becomes Benny’s close friend and musical collaborator. Their adventures together take Benny far from the life he knew as a delivery boy. Pearl Chimbrova recognizes their talent and invites them to start playing at her family’s saloon, which Napoleon dubs “The Jazz Palace.”

Even as the novel charts the story of its characters, it also tells the tale of the city where they live. It is a world of gangsters, musicians, and clubs, in which black musicians are no freer than they were before the Civil War, white youths head down to the South Side to “slum,” and Al Capone and Louis Armstrong become legends. As The Jazz Palace steams through the 1920s, Benny, Pearl, and Napoleon forge a bond that is as memorable as it is lasting.



Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters for Vanishing Animals & Other Stories